Characters are always speaking to me and sometimes it can be difficult to sort out a character’s motivation when another character’s motivation is clear. I also focus on main characters: their history, their likes, dislikes, favorites, etc., and my other characters may suffer from the lopsided treatment.
In Ellen Brock’s Lecture 2: Creating Deep Realistic Characters, the focus is on the Four Tiers of Depth. The lecture helped me see past the superficial characteristics and examine the Goals, Motivation, Deep Dark Secret, and The Origin of the Deep Dark Secret. I love the ability to be able to pinpoint what aspect of a character needs more attention. If you follow the link above, you can access the full lecture.
Here is a picture of my notes of the lecture because I’m a nerd.
After I took notes, I realized that Ellen referred to this as a tier system. It made sense to organize these tiers this way. You can see above that I made a mini-pyramid to show the tier system. Below is a picture of the tier system, expanded to include Ellen’s questions to help figure out details of the character’s Goal, Motivation, Deep Dark Belief, and The Origin of the Deep Dark Belief.
I don’t know if you can tell, but I LOVE learning.
I noticed that as the pyramid sloped upward that development shifted from character to plot. It was a lightbulb moment because this helped illustrate for me how the character’s origin belief can affect the plot.
I was excited to try this out on the main character of the story idea I’ve been working on. I thrive with order and structure, so it was fun to do this. I love that I was creating and I didn’t have to work at being creative.
Here’s what I came up with:
This worked out so well for me. I had ideas floating around and I was able to organize and see how they contributed to my character and plot. The exercise also helped me look deeper into my character and the motives I had come up with before. Either they were authentic or just didn’t make sense. I took the exercise a bit further (Hi! Nerd here.) and to the left of each tier jotted down what emotions the character was feeling at the time of each development. It started off with superficial emotions, but as I really dug in, I got more complex emotions that seemed plausible too. I am definitely doing this for the other characters in the story as well.
If you don’t have a story to work on right now, but like this idea, a good practice would be on a character from a book and identify the characterics of the Tiers of Depth for that character. I’d love to hear how it worked out for you!
Here are the lecture notes.
And check out Novel Boot Camp. It’s a free summer workshop and full of awesome. Obviously.